Filmsite Movie Review
The Producers (1968)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)


On opening night at the Broadway Playhouse Theatre, black limousines pulled up to the curb under the marquee to deposit attendees - mostly rich, well-dressed patrons. Inside the theatre in the lobby where they greeted audience-goers as they entered, Max and Leo were dressed in black silk formal tuxedoes. Max wrapped a $100 dollar bribe around two aisle-seat tickets presented to a NY Times drama critic (John Zoller), and corrected the insulted and outraged critic: "It's no mistake, enjoy the show....I'm bribing you." Meanwhile, Nazi-helmeted Franz roared up on his motorcycle (with a side-car), removed his leather jacket, and entered the lobby to tell his compatriots: "Gentlemen, it is magic time! Good luck. Good luck. Tonight, Broadway. Tomorrow..." - he gestured with his hands to create a globe-shape. Max whispered to the side to Leo: "So much for Nazi Fagin." Then he noticed the $100 dollar bill that had been tossed at his feet and chuckled: "He'll kill us."

Max and Leo entered the rear of the darkened theatre, anticipating that the insulted audience would soon be exiting the theatre's doors. Max told the anxiety-ridden Bloom: "Relax, in two hours, our worries will be over."

The First Act - The Opening Musical Number "Springtime for Hitler":

The outrageous, perverted, outlandish and distasteful musical premiered - with the opening, satirical title number Springtime for Hitler.

CHORUS (Showgirls & Showguys In Traditional German Garb) At the Front of the Stage:
Germany was having trouble. What a sad, sad story. Needed a new leader to restore Its former glory. Where, oh, where was he? Where could that man be? We looked around, and then we found The man for you and me. And now it's...

[Note: The lighthearted, tasteless satire of Hitler, reminiscent of Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940), with such lyrics as "Don't be stupid, be a smarty -- come and join the Nazi Party!" was slightly scandalous. The ridicule of the Nazi regime also evoked Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be (1942).]

The curtain opened behind them to a black-uniformed, black-booted singing Stormtrooper, backed by Nazi chorus-girls (with Wagnerian horns and skimpy outfits) standing on a central descending staircase. The Nazi showgirls (with huge Fuhrer-painted balloons or headdresses held above their heads) appeared and descended, some wearing bras decorated with puffs of beer stein foam, gold-painted pretzels, and gold-medal seals:

Springtime for Hitler and Germany. Deutschland is happy and gay! We're marching to a faster pace. Look out, here comes the master race! Springtime for Hitler and Germany, Winter for Poland and France. Springtime for Hitler and Germany! Come on, Germans Go into your dance!
(Ten Stormtroopers tap danced)
I was born in Dusseldorf, und that is why they call me Rolf.

Don't be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party!
Springtime for Hitler and Germany Goose-step's the new step today.
Bombs falling from the skies again, Deutschland is on the rise again.
(Aerial view of Swastika-Formation) Springtime for Hitler and Germany, U-boats are sailing once more,

The ten dancing male Stormtroopers were joined by a group of ten sexy dancing show-girls (female Stormtroopers) who linked arms and arranged themselves into a chorus-line of goose-steppers, and kicked in the style of Radio City Musical Hall Rockettes. Then, as they sang the Chorus, the male and female Stormtroopers goose-stepped in formation as they marched forward with a salute to the Fuhrer - accompanied by gunshot sounds ("Goose-step's the new step today").

There were slow-panning reaction shots of the horrified and shocked audience members gasping in disbelief at the Broadway musical play. A revolving swastika formation was shot from overhead -- a parody of the Busby Berkeley style. Initially, Leo and Max were joyful (believing that they had produced their "sure-fire flop" on Broadway) when they overheard a female patron exiting the play while exclaiming how outrageous the play was: "Well, talk about bad taste!" A portrait of Adolf Hitler descended behind the dancers and singers, as the backdrop transformed into a battle ship with cannons pointed at the audience to be blasted at them with white smoke - and the vocal announcement by the performers that there would be war! .

Springtime for Hitler and Germany, Means that..., Soon we'll be going..., We've got to be going..., You know we'll be going to war!!

Leo and Max retreated to a bar across the street, anticipating that their hoax-flop was working, before the second act.

The Second Part of First Act:

As many patrons were leaving their seats, the curtain rose on the second act of the play. The tide of attendees leaving their seats reversed itself, and returned inside.

On stage, L.S.D. was with his lover, braided blonde-haired Eva Braun (Renee Taylor) who was pulling petals from an oversized daisy, and complaining with an American accent that she was being ignored: "Er liebt mir. Er liebt mir nicht. Er liebt mir ("He loves me, he loves me not...")." Leaning over a piano, L.S.D. professed that he loved Eva: ("I lieb ya, baby, I lieb ya. Now leave me alone"). As a tyrant, he was more dedicated to his love for Germany: "Don't you forget, baby, I took an oath. Deutschland uber alles."

At the almost-empty bar, with grandiose gallantry, the normally-miserly Max - after looking around - told the bartender (Frank Campanella) to serve free drinks to everyone: ("As a matter of fact, a round of drinks for everybody in the place!"). The two toasted to their failing production: "To failure!" and soon became drunk and tipsy with a drunken man (Bill Hickey) who had joined them at the end of the bar.

The production echoed the narcissistic counter-culture of the hippies with a conversation between Hitler and one of his top two Generals, General Goring (Barney Martin):

Hitler (to Goring): Hey man, you're German!
Goring: We're all Germans.
Hitler: That's right. That means we cannot attack Germany. I mean, I got all my friends here, you know. Now, what about me?

Meanwhile, Franz in the audience was becoming increasingly perturbed by Hitler's continued use of the word "baby" and "Hey, man." When told to shut up by an audience member, he retorted: "No 'SHUT UP.' You are the audience, I am the author. I OUTRANK you!" Back at the nearby bar, Leo, Max, and the drunk, who were toasting to failure, jubiliantly sang: "By the Light of the Silvery Moon."

During the intermission, Max suddenly realized that their plan had unexpectedly backfired. Their resultant joy was turned to consternation when they realized that their flop was actually a big surprise box-office hit, and they heard theatre-goers in the bar proclaiming their play a real success: "Well, so far that's about one the funniest things I've ever seen on Broadway. I've never laughed so much in my life." The audience had misinterpreted their serious production as a brilliant satire. There was no doubt that the patrons were talking about their play: "If the second act is anything like the first, this will run for five years." While rubbing his blue blanket on his face, Leo began to worry about how to divide up the profits: "Mrs. Cathcart -- 50% Mrs. Resnick -- 50% Mrs. Wentworth -- 100%."

The Second Act:

The two left the bar and returned to the second part of the theatre production, to see for themselves if the "majority" of the audience really liked their play. They were frozen and stricken by waves and peals of laughter, as they watched LSD with General Goebbels (David Patch):

Hitler: One and one's two, Two and two's four, I feel so bad, 'cause I'm losin' the war!...Oh, man, we're losin' everything, everything! Where's my Goebbels, where's my Goebbels? Get me my little Joe....
Goebbels: (jiving) Heil, baby!
Hitler: Hey, baby, what's happenin'? (They slapped hands)
Goebbels: I just laid the morning propaganda broadcasts on the people.
Hitler: You're puttin' me on. What did they say?
Goebbels: I told the people we invaded England.
Hitler: Hey, that's a groove, Daddy. How did we come out?
Goebbels: We beat 'em, baby!

Franz was humiliated and enraged by the treatment of his beloved production, especially LSD's portrayal of Hitler. He went backstage and knocked one of the stagehands unconscious. He also released the rope holding up the curtain, and then raced onto the stage in front of the dropped curtain to confrontationally rant and rave at the actors and the audience: "I am the author of this play. You are the victims of a hoax. These are not my words. The Fuhrer has never said baby. The Fuhrer was sweet, the Fuhrer was kind, the Fuhrer was good." He was struck on the head and knocked out through the curtain, and then grabbed by his feet and dragged away to be removed. All of the uproar was thought to be a deliberate part of the uproarious act.

The Aftermath of the Box-Office Hit Play:

Later, in Max's office that was stuffed with congratulatory telegrams and flowers, Ulla (in a black-lace bikini) happily greeted Max ("We make love?") and began gyrating, but Max was despairing about his tremendous financial success that also meant financial ruin. De Bris entered with a bottle of champagne to celebrate: "Have you seen the lines at the box office? It's a torrent, it's an avalanche, IT'S THE BIGGEST HIT ON BROADWAY!" Max lunged at him: "You lousy fruit. You've ruined me!" After throwing De Bris out (who was screaming out "Murder!" and "Rape!", Max expressed his upset:

How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go RIGHT?!?

The stunned partners started to turn on each other. Leo was assembling all of the accounting ledger books-records and was planning to surrender to the authorities: "I'm turning myself in. It's the only way. I'm gonna cooperate with the authorities. They'll reduce my sentence and then there's time off for good behavior. And maybe I'll get a job in the prison library." Max blocked the door and tried to reason with him: "You don't know what you're doing. You're acting out of panic."

While struggling and fighting with each other, Franz arrived outside Max's office door, shot bullets through it, and yelled out: "I am betrayed!" He opened the door and confronted them with his German Luger gun, firing wildly. As they cowered under Max's desk, Franz accused them of deserving punishment: "Don't you understand? You must die." Ulla suddenly entered and took orders for coffee: ("Two regular. One black, two sugars"). Once the altercation recommenced, Franz accused them of being cowards under the desk and then attempted to commit suicide:

Miserable, cringing cowards. Clinging to life. Vatch, vatch and remember. Franz Liebkind vill show you how to die like a man! Soon I vill be vit mine Fuhrer, und Goering, und Goebbels, and Himmler. I'm coming boys!

However, Franz' gun clicked empty. Leo comforted the crying Franz, while Max absurdly suggested that Franz kill the actors: ("Why don't you shoot the actors?"), but Leo intervened to stop further insanity ("Stop! This is insanity").

After a reconciliation, the three banded together when Max happened to speculate: ("There's no way out. What can we do, blow up the theatre?"). They decided to dynamite the theater to end the production. However, after setting up the detonation wire to a cluster of dynamite sticks, the bumbling Liebkind didn't know whether the wire he had chosen was a "quick fuse" or a "slow fuse." Once he realized it was a "quick fuse," it was too late to escape the massive explosion.

A Brief Courtroom Trial:

Off-screen, the threesome was arrested and appeared in a crowded courtroom (filled with weeping old ladies). The injured Leo sat with a bandaged forehead, while black German-helmeted Franz was completely mummified from head to foot, and Max had his arm in a sling cast sporting an upraised middle finger.

After an "incredibly guilty" verdict was announced by the jury, Leo presented his passionate defense of Max to the court - while calling him "the most selfish man" he had ever met:

Max Bialystock is the most selfish man I ever met in my life...Not only is he a liar and a cheat and a scoundrel and a crook, who has taken money from little old ladies, but he's also talked people into doing things, especially me, that they would never in a thousand years have dreamed of doing. But, your Honor, as I understand it, the law was created to protect people from being wronged. Your Honor, whom has Max Bialystock wronged? I mean, whom has he really hurt? Not me. Not me. I was -- this man. No one ever called me Leo before. I mean, I know it's not a big legal point, but even in kindergarten, they used to call me Bloom. I never sang a song before. I mean with someone else. I never sang a song with someone else before. This man, this man, this is a wonderful man. He made me what I am today. He did. And what of the dear ladies? What would their lives have been without Max Bialystock? Max Bialystock who made them feel young and attractive and wanted again? That's all that I have to say.

The ladies stood to applaud. Max also rose and tacked on his own final words, claiming he had learned his lesson: "And may I humbly add, your Honor, that we've learned our lesson and that we'll never do it again." The trio was sentenced to two-five years in the State Penitentiary.

The Film's Epilogue:

Wearing striped uniforms (resembling Auschwitz inmates), Leo and Max had obviously not learned their lesson. In the prison's auditorium, they had arranged a similarly fraudulent scheme by producing another show, titled Prisoners of Love. Franz had been commissioned to play the piano and script the music, while Max directed and produced. Leo was accepting (or bilking) payments from investors for 'shares' of the show from other fellow convicts (and even the warden), and handing out receipts for overlapping percentages of ownership. A sign read: "INVEST NOW!!! Huge Profits Guaranteed!! Max was waving his cane and bellowing during dance rehearsal - the film's final line of dialogue:

Sing it out, men! Higher, you animals, higher! We open in Leavenworth Saturday night!

The ending credits were presented in reverse order, proceeding from the minor parts to the star actors (each with a picture and actor's name). The last picture presented an affectionate tribute to Mostel in the end credits, who was listed only as "Zero."

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